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China Is Showing the World How it Would Sink a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

China seems to have missiles that could indeed strike U.S. Navy warships: Even as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has become the largest naval force in the world, and recently launched its third aircraft carrier, the Chinese military continues to tout its capabilities to counter the United States Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Just this week, Chinese state media aired footage of its most powerful strategic nuclear-capable weapons, including its so-called anti-ship “carrier killers” to mark National Day.

That move was seen as a warning to the U.S. as tensions escalate between the rival powers.

According to a report from the South China Morning Post, anti-aircraft carrier DF-21D and DF-26B ballistic missiles as well as new-generation DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) – all part of the Dongfeng series – were on display in the new footage for state-owned China Central Television (CCTV), in a segment from an eight-part documentary series.

“Showcasing Dongfeng series strategic weapons is a subtle warning to the United States, which is instigating other countries to put on pressure on Beijing over the Taiwan issue, as the fierce Ukraine war also poses a dilemma for China,” explained Song Zhongping, a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) instructor.

“The PLA Rocket Force’s strategic weapons were supposed to be displayed in National Day military parades, but China organizes such big events only once a decade or once in five years, which makes such video footage another option for the PLA to show its muscle to its American counterpart,” Song added.

TV footage aired earlier by the PLA’s channel 81 TV had also shown nearly two dozen DF-26B missiles and launchers, or at least two such missile brigades, as being combat ready. In addition, Chinese social media platform posts indicate one of the DF-26B brigades is based in the northeastern city of Dalian, under the Northern Theatre Command.

China Has Carrier Killers

The dual-capable missiles – which are able to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads – could pose a great threat to the US aircraft carrier strike groups, the instructor warned. He suggested even with conventional warheads, the dual-capable DF-21D and DF-26 missiles are powerful enough to deter the U.S. Navy from entering Chinese waters because of their precision strike capability.

In August 2020, the PLA Rocket Force launched the two “aircraft carrier killer” missiles in the South China Sea to hit a designated target, a moving ship. That particular launch had come just one day after Beijing claimed a U.S. U-2 spy plane had entered a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill off the country’s northern coast.

One of the missiles – the DF-26B – was launched from the northwestern province of Qinghai; while the other – the DB-21B – was launched from the eastern province of Zhejiang. Both of the missiles were fired into an area between the Hainan province and the Paracel Islands. The landing areas were reportedly within a zone that maritime safety authorities in Hainan had said would be off-limits because of those military exercises.

This is just the latest saber-rattling involving China’s dual-capable missile, a type of weapon banned by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War.

Close Up On the Missiles

Beijing first unveiled the road-mobile, two-stage solid-fueled intermediate-range ballistic (IRBM) DF-26B (Dong Feng-26) during a military parade in September 2015. It has a reported range of 4,000km (2,485 miles) and can be used in both conventional and nuclear strikes against ground, as well as naval targets. The mobile launcher can carry a 1,200 to 1,800 kg nuclear or conventional warhead, and as it could directly strike a target such as the U.S. territory of Guam in the event of war; it has been seen as a formidable weapon.

The other missile, the DF-21D has been described as the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) or carrier killer. It first entered service more than 30 years ago as China’s first solid-fuel road-mobile missile, replacing the obsolete Dong Feng-2 (CSS-1). Able to deploy a 600 kg payload with a minimum range of 500 km (311 miles) and a maximum range of 2,150 km, the DF-21D’s warhead is likely maneuverable and may have an accuracy of 20 m CEP (circular error probable). That could make it instrumental in striking a vessel in the open ocean or denying access to a potential opponent in transiting to a conflict zone in waters that Beijing seeks to control, such as the East or South China Seas.

It is likely China will continue to promote the capabilities of its carrier killer missiles on state TV and via social media – both to highlight its might to its own people, but also a strong warning to the United States.

A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    October 4, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    What a coincidence, we also have the ability to sink their morphadite carriers – 10 x over… 🙂

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